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  • July 22nd, 2008 | 9:49 AM
Tuesday Memory Challenge

 This week's memory challenge is about animals. Animals are an important part of childhood, both the ones we choose to bring into our homes and the ones we come across outside playing and exploring. I have been an animal lover all my life even though I haven't owned very many.

The first animals I remember being around weren't mine even though they lived in the same place I did. There was my grandfather's hunting dog, Gippy, a Brittany Spaniel and there was Toby, a black lab that belonged to my cousin but lived, a short time, with us. I wanted a dog of my own but it would be a while.

There was a black rabbit, for a few days, that we caught in the yard, a wounded bird of some kind that I remember in the box in the cove under the kitchen sink. When I went to my cousins house a bit in the country we would chase and catch squirrels.

There are pictures of a fish tank in my children's photo album but I don't remember having anything to do with them. I did have one of those turtles that you are not supposed to have any more, the ones they sold with the little plastic bowl with the island in the middle.

The first dog I had was a little Pekingese/Pomeranian mix I named Lisa who loved my mom more than she loved me. I wanted nothing more than to have Lisa sleep on the bed with me and she wanted nothing more than to sleep with my mom. In retrospect I was probably a bit too excitable for her.

There was a stray cat I named Fluffy who let me feed him on the back porce and whom my mom insisted I must never touch because cats would give me ring worm. It was many years before I ever felt comfortable around a cat.

In junior high I had a horse named Sparky, the totally wrong horse for me, half Quarter Horse and half Clydesdale. There was no great love between us. He was the first horse we looked at and I told my mom I loved him because I was afraid she'd change her mind and not let me get a horse.

I wish my childhood had been filled with more animals.

What about you? Tell me about the animals in your childhood.

There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 14 comments — Leave comment )
July 22nd, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
The big Omaha Tornado of 1975 hit my teacher's house and brought many new kids to our school, but one of the most memorable things about this storm for my brothers and I was that we found baby birds in our front yard. My mom put the birds under light bulb in an aquarium and hand fed them some sort of mush from a medicine dropper. We named the birds, and my mom got up and fed those things around the clock until they were able to fly away. My bird, Lil'y (the littlest of the bunch)died. My brother's, Jimmy, was the last to leave. He would hop around the yard, following my dad. When it was finally time to let Jimmy fly away, he did not want to go. After several attempts, he finally flew away and left four kids crying in the yard, wishing he would stay.
July 23rd, 2008 04:01 am (UTC)
Re: Animals
What a wonderful memory! Thanks, Kim, for sharing it with me.
July 22nd, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)
I'm sure its somehow tied into the fact that my parents were veterinarians that we always had multiple pets--usually 1-2 dogs, 3-4 cats, fish and whatever "special" pet one of us kids had gotten. We had shelties (BIG shelties--more like small collies than the other shelties I've seen) that I loved and a wonderful terrier mix when I was a teenager. There was a canary in there and a guinea pig, too.

Now that I'm a "grown-up," even though we're up in the mountains, we're a one-cat family. I'm not sure how the change happened, but it has something to do with living near a major mountain road with no fence around our property--a dog just wouldn't survive here. Also, it has to do, I'm sure, with my transition from child to parent--pets feel a bit more like another responsibility, rather than just a playmate. One cat to curl up with us on the couch seems just right.
July 23rd, 2008 04:01 am (UTC)
I'm glad you found the perfect pet that works for you now!
July 22nd, 2008 06:19 pm (UTC)
We always had a cat or two at home. We lived in a huge old house, (apparently with mice) and one day my dad brought home a large gray cat. He called the cat a mouser, and so that became his name.

He was the first in line of many cats, and I've forgotten most of their names. One female cat had kittens, and I watched them being born.

We also had a cheeky parakeet who'd chase the kittens when they began to walk and explore, and peck at their tails. That only lasted a couple of weeks, for as the kittens grew, they discovered they were larger than the bird and began to practice their hunting skills. The silly bird wouldn't learn, so we had to keep him locked in his cage until he realized that those little things tripping across the floor were CATS!

Fun memories!
July 23rd, 2008 04:04 am (UTC)
Oh that is too too funny about the bird! I didn't get into birds until my 20s and then I had 4 at once with 5 dogs. It was a zoo.
July 22nd, 2008 07:19 pm (UTC)
The first dog my family ever had got mange and had to be put to sleep. His name was Sandy, and I cried so hard at his having to be put to sleep that my mother's best friend's husband gave us a puppy - Moochie. He was what my grandparents called a 'Coach Dog' (mostly dalmation). This was back when my folks let their dogs run, and Mooch got hit by a car. He started to snap at the family, so he disappeared. We had dogs almost all the time I was growing up.

And cats. The first one 'we' had I managed to talk the kid next door out of - he'd brought home a cat and his father HATED cats. So Tiger came to live with us. He eventually disappeared, and his successor also ran - and was fed ground glass. This was when we all learned that animals should not be allowed to run. Willie lived to be 17 years old.

There were a couple of canaries, a parakeet, two baby birds that my mother fed but they didn't last long...We've always had animals of some kind around, and I don't feel the household is complete without them.
July 23rd, 2008 04:05 am (UTC)
I loved hearing about your wonderful animals! I so agree - a house is not complete without our animal friends.
July 22nd, 2008 08:00 pm (UTC)
Again back to the grandparents farm:

My grandparents had all sorts of animals. Cows, chickens, barn cats (never, every house cats. They could come as far as the porch, any further and they risked the wrath of Grandmother) sheep, goats, dogs and horses.

The big things I remember are the dogs and horses. (The cows play a big part too, but most horses and dogs.)

Granddad had a dog, named The General. And granddad would get up in the morning, in the wee hours, and go downstairs to tend the livestock and The General would go help him. The General was a GSD, and a well trained herding dog. He'd herd cows, sheep, goats, horses, chickens, children, he didn't care. As long as he got to herd, he was a happy dog.

The General was the one that hung around me the most. If he wasn't out helping Granddad, he was with me making sure I didn't fall or get hurt, and that I could go tramping through the woods, and still make it home for dinner.

The General started getting old, and in came Bearclaw, nicknamed "Colonel". Bearclaw was a St. Bernard, and utterly cowed by The General. The General would discipline Bearclaw if he got things wrong. A lot of the local people said "St. Bernards can't herd cows!" Yeah, well, he did. Bearclaw began taking over for The General, as the older dog slowed down. Many an hour, that pair tramped after me into the woods, their only order from my Granddad would be "Go on. Make sure she comes home." And the dogs would follow my heels no matter where they took us.

Beyond that pair, there was one horse that stood out. I was six. Granddad had been looking to replace his stallion (he bred on the side, and showed his horses some) that had died when I was like two. So, he went to auction, and this stallion came up for bid (Obviously, this was well before artificial insemination) and Granddad, ignoring the warnings that that stallion was high-strung and "hard to handle" bought him.

He brought that stallion home, and I was playing in the yard when he came in. I stood up, and was standing by the porch stairs with The General (this was before Bearclaw came in.) and wanted to see the new horse.

Granddad got him out of the back of the trailer. A bird flew past, startled the stallion and he got loose. He charged straight in my direction, and The General stood his ground and barked and growled at that stallion, protecting me. The stallion (unnamed) stopped and stared at The General like the dog had lost his mind.

They snorted and sniffed at each other for a minute and then the stallion started snuffling at me. Granddad came and collected the, now calm, stallion and let me name him.

He was a beautiful golden chestnut and got called "Firefoot". I learned to ride on him, and proper horse care. He was patient, and gentle, and a very easy going gentleman. (Previous owners didn't know anything!)

Of all the animals in my childhood, those three really stand out.
July 23rd, 2008 04:06 am (UTC)
I love your stories of your grandparent's farm.

What a story about you and General! Wow! (And the stallion) Thank you for sharing.
July 23rd, 2008 10:58 am (UTC)
I sometimes wish they'd raised me. There was talk, when I was ten, that my granddad would take me in (I'd been trampled by a horse -- not Firefoot -- and required a LOT of care) but my grandmother had passed by then, and my mother needed a trophy charity casehad objections, so I stayed with my parents.

That place was home to me in all the ways that my parents' house wasn't.
July 23rd, 2008 01:36 pm (UTC)

Thank goodness for grandparents who can give that kind of love. I'm so glad you had them in your life.
July 23rd, 2008 12:34 am (UTC)
I grew up in an apartment that didn't technically allow pets, so I couldn't really have one. But that didn't stop my grandmother from giving me a duck for Easter! Actually, I think she did it 3 times, but once I remember we kept the duck, Downy, for a week in our little apartment. It's pretty hard to hide a pet that quacks loudly! Finally we had to sneak it out in an open tote bag and then take it to a local park with a duck pond, where we released it. My parents swear to this day that every time they went to that pond, they could recognize our duck in the pond and could see it was getting along fine with the other ducks.

My grandmother didn't get the message about not giving pets as gifts, so the next Easter, when I was 6 or 7, she gave me a registered Scottie dog. I named her Heather and pushed her around in a doll-sized pram, but again, we had to give her away after a week because of the no-pets rule in our apartments. My grandmother took her in, but she didn't really like dogs or know what to do with them, so she gave the dog to my aunt who had 3 kids and a house with a yard. Heather apparently thrived there for a while, but when my aunt got divorced and moved to an apartment, Heather was kind of neglected and got so sick that the vet, who was crazy about her, offered to keep her. :( So last I knew, she was living with my aunt's vet (and no, I don't think that's just a story they told me while they euthanized her or something, because I lived hundreds of miles from my aunt and would never have had occasion to see the dog again anyway--I think they just weren't taking care of her and the vet stepped in.)

Then yet again, my grandmother gave me a dog when I was in 6th grade or so. She was always impulsive! Her hairdresser said he needed to find a home for his Yorkshire terrier, and she took the dog. The dog was named Millhouse but I renamed him Dynamite. This time my grandmother was going to keep him for me, since she had a house, but she didn't have a fenced yard so she just put up a makeshift pen for him. I think I only got to see him once or twice, because after 2 weeks, she gave him to a lady she met at the car repair shop! I'm not sure why she kept giving me pets when she obviously had no use for them herself and they kind of freaked her out. The Yorkie was very hyper so I don't think she could take it.

Anyway, I never had another childhood pet, except for a few goldfish in a bowl, which always died after 1 or 2 days. My parents and brother got a bunny after I was already married (they were in a house by then), and our whole family has loved bunnies ever since. After I got married, my husband and I got a guinea pig, but he was VERY skittish and only lived a year and a half. While we still had him, we also got two bunnies. One of them lived 5 years and the other lived 10, and died last year. Then we were petless for the past year and a half or so (except for our 17-month-old son, who often seems like a pet!), and now we have a 3-month-old kitten!

My family always disliked cats...so much, in fact, that I still haven't gotten up the nerve to tell them I have one, and I've had her for a month! But my husband had them growing up, and this was a stray some friends rescued and we didn't want her going to the shelter, so we took her in. I'm still getting used to having a cat. The bunnies were crazy and lots of trouble at first, but eventually got too old and tired to leave their cage much, so having a pet jumping on me all the time or on my counters and tables is a little odd! But she is a lot friendlier than I expected, always wanting to cuddle up with someone.

Edited at 2008-07-23 12:36 am (UTC)
July 23rd, 2008 04:08 am (UTC)
Love love love the stories of your grandmother! Wouldn't she be a great character in a story?
( 14 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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